Idaho Potato Commission and CAFÉ Honored Valencia College Culinary Educator for Classroom Innovation

ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 29, 2020 – The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) and Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ) recognized Valencia College’s Poinciana campus instructor Dr. Jennifer Denlinger, CCC, CHEP, for creating an Escape Room with clues derived from her Food Safety and Sanitation college course.

Dr. Jennifer Denlinger, culinary management program department chair at Valencia College’s Poinciana camps, received the 2020 Innovation Award, sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission and CAFÉ.

The game is played before the final exam as a means of reviewing material for a class that is among the most information-laden courses a culinary student studies. The challenge involves clues whose answers lead students to other clues that help them solve the Escape Room puzzle. The better students know their facts the closer they progress to solving the puzzle.

Dr. Denlinger’s creativity was rewarded with the 2020 Innovation Award where she received a $1,000 cash prize and commemorative plaque for her innovative approach to effective culinary arts education.

The Culinary Management Program Department Chair wanted to “figure out a better way for students to pay attention and retain course information,” she said in her application. She knew including active learning lessons, or methods outside the scope of a traditional lecture, would be key to helping her students retain the more than 3,000 items they needed to know including all Florida state regulations.

“I have taught this class hundreds of times,” she said. “It is a very tough class with lots of memorization. The goal is to help students work on a better way to learn the information needed and apply it to real-world scenarios.”

Her students agreed that an active learning approach would better help them retain the information. One culinary management student said, “Providing visual and hands-on activities corresponding to the lectures maintain student involvement.”

Students begin with a clue as they enter the classroom turned into an Escape Room. It deals with donning a uniform. Once they find the appropriate clothing article, they find the next clue. Another clue example is this: You are given a task today to filet fish. Please get the correct tools to ensure you have no cross contamination. Students then know to look for a set of colored cutting boards and taped to the back of the correct board is the next clue.

Dr. Denlinger also uses invisible ink in her clues. Clues are revealed with black/ultraviolet light, which also reveals germs and is used to teach sanitation techniques. A clue example that uses black light and a shellfish tag listing a harvest date is this: What day can you throw away this tag? The answer is a date, such as May 30, which becomes 0530 and also corresponds to the correct combination of a programmable lock on a box containing the next clue.

Another task also has students cleaning a mock dish room with piles of empty chemical jugs, sanitation buckets, a mop, a broom, glass racks sitting directly on the floor and more. Students must straighten the area and correct the problems. Once students move the glass racks off the floor the next clue card becomes visible sitting directly underneath.

The end of the game does not have students leaving a locked room but leads them two large jars with their contents concealed. Students who answer the last question correctly arrive at one jar filled with candy. The consequence of answering the last question wrong is a jar filled with dried beans.

When asked about how students felt about the review activity the answer was resoundingly positive. “Eighty-eight percent of students who responded said they enjoyed the activity and felt like it made them think critically,” Dr. Denlinger said. “This activity is super successful and popular.”

In addition to the cash prize, Valencia College’s Culinary Management Program also received a complimentary registration for a representative to attend CAFÉ’s 2021 Leadership Conference in Portland, Maine, held next June.


About the Idaho Potato Commission
Established in 1937, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) is a state agency responsible for promoting and protecting the famous “Grown in Idaho®” seal, a federally registered trademark that assures consumers they are purchasing genuine, top-quality Idaho® potatoes. Idaho’s growing season of warm days and cool nights, ample mountain-fed irrigation and rich volcanic soil, give Idaho® potatoes their unique texture, taste and dependable performance. These ideal growing conditions are what differentiate Idaho® potatoes from potatoes grown in other states. For more information, visit


About the Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ)

Founded in 2002, CAFÉ links the foodservice classroom to the foodservice industry to provide needed resources to educators so that they may more successfully train students for vibrant, fulfilling careers in the ever-evolving foodservice industry. Through its Web portal, online magazine The Gold Medal Classroom and annual Leadership Conference, as well as its series of regional skills workshops nationwide, CAFÉ is dedicated to addressing the unique needs of highly specialized professionals who wear two hats as culinarians and educators. For more information, visit